Running with the Herd – Bison vs Hull Pirates 05/03/16

EPL

Basingstoke Bison 10-0 Hull Pirates

Connolly

Balmer x3 (2 pp)

Lack x2

Long

Towalski

Karpov

Greener

Blown out of the water: The Bison were still without Alex Symonds and Tomas Hiadlovsky was rested in favour of Jon Baston against the Finn’s former club. Alan Lack returned to the line-up as did Grant Rounding after suffering a leg injury in training late last year. The Pirates were without Josh Gent and Cam Brownley as well as making the somewhat surprising decision to start Ashley Smith over Martins Raitums in net.

The Pirates started the first rather brightly and had the Herd on the back foot inside the first two minutes as Dominic Osman’s men put some immediate pressure on Baston’s net. However the Bison weathered the early storm and managed to find the opener as Joe Baird’s shot towards the net took a tip off of Aaron Connolly’s stick. Smith appeared to have saved the shot but the puck trickled through the young Pirates netminder and over the line at 02:20.

Tomas Karpov soon set off on a trademark dazzling run, foregoing his usual winding style by just powering straight through the Pirates defence but his attempt to bank the puck in off of Smith didn’t work and Ciaran Long missed the rebound.

The second goal was clearly coming for the Bison and it eventually came from a slightly unlikely source. Rene Jarolin fed the puck back to the point where Declan Balmer floated a shot on net which Smith got a piece of but again, not enough of as it squeezed through the netminder and into the net at 04:12 for 2-0.

It wasn’t long till the third went in as the Bison were simply overwhelming the visitors. Rene Jarolin walked into space with virtually no challenge and Alan Lack deflected that shot past Smith at 05:39 which forced the Pirates into taking their timeout.

The timeout did stem the tide of the scoring for a bit but not the Bison pressure as Kurt Reynolds and Ryan Sutton went close. At the other end, Baston was forced into saves by Osman and Warren Tait.

A hooking call for Miroslav Vantroba sent the Pirates to the powerplay and the visitors looked to make the most of the opportunity to put some real pressure on the hosts. Jonathan Kirk was found unmarked at the backdoor by some slick passing but Baston was equal to that and a wrap around chance be Lee Bonner. Vantroba returned with the scoreline unchanged.

The Pirates pressed to try and get on the scoreboard but instead of any reward for their efforts but instead were victim to another Bison attack. Matt Towalski and Shaun Thompson worked the puck to the front of the net and with just enough space to manoeuvre, Lack scored his second as he fired past Smith at 15:32 to make it 4-0.

The Pirates were back on the powerplay shortly afterwards as Joe Greener’s thunderous hit levelled Jordan Fisher and left the Pirates man laying on the ice. Mr Matthews’ arm was up straight away and the Bison forward received and extended sit down thanks to a 2+10 checking from behind penalty.

The Pirates had their chances on the powerplay thanks to Nathan Salem’s blast and Pasi Salonen tipping Jon Kirk’s shot but Baston was equal to both. The Bison even fashioned a shorthanded chance themselves but Tomas Karpov whistled his shot wide of the net.

The first period wound down to give the Pirates, and Ashley Smith in particular, a much needed bit of respite and the Bison a chance to rest and possibly start shutting the game down.

Neither of these things happened. Ashley Smith returned to the net for the second period and the Bison didn’t let up, almost finding themselves 5-0 up inside the opening moments but Ciaran Long missed the nearly empty net after some neat work by Alan Lack.

However the visitors were soon very much in the period and had a string of good chances as Sam Towner went close and Lee Bonner rang a shot off of the crossbar.

Jon Kirk brought down Tomas Karpov on a good run to the net which saw the Pirates forward sent to the box for tripping which gave the Herd their first powerplay of the evening which paid nearly immediate dividends; the puck was cycled up to the point and Balmer hammered in his second of the night as his low drive beat Smith at 27:18.

The teams traded chances as the game, somewhat expectedly slowed down a bit but the Bison continued to press and made it 6-0 just after the half an hour mark. Tomas Karpov again caused havoc in the Pirates’ defence and with everyone scrambling in front of Smith’s goal the puck fell to Ciaran Long who waited, then waited then eventually fired into the net at 31:31.

The Pirates came closest to a goal a few moments later; Pasi Salonen’s darting run through the Bison defence and drive to the net caused a mild panic in the Bison defence. The Pirates swarmed towards the net but a mixture of a diving Baston and Stuart Mogg pretending to be a second netminder stopped the puck from crossing the line. Minutes later Mogg would set Matt Towalski away who wound up and blasted the puck past Smith at 33:55 for 7-0 which mercifully ended the night of Ashley Smith who was replaced by Martins Raitums.

Raitums, the Pirates’ regular starter was likely to have played on Friday at home to Bracknell if the game hadn’t been cancelled due to “transport issues” for the Bees and his appearance on this night didn’t start well. Tomas Karpov took the pass from Alan Lack, took the zone and hammered the puck into the back of the net at 35:03 for 8-0 on the Latvian’s first shot of the game.

The Pirates had a few chances after that point through Kirk and a Osman tip on a Tommi Laine shot but the second wound to a close with the game past the point of really being a contest.

The third started with another change of netminder as, despite having the shutout on, Jon Baston made way for Dan Weller-Evans to take all of the third period.

With no Sunday game, the Bison seemed determined to keep pressing and send a message to the chasers in the EPL title race that they were not letting up for anyone. Matt Towalski had a shot blockered away by Raitums but when Joe Baird found Joe Greener at the side of the net, there was nothing he could do to stop the Bison’s #97 from firing home the Bison’s 9th at 43:29.

Tommi Laine and Osman tested Weller-Evans whilst at the other end another run by Karpov could have yielded a goal for the Czech forward but he decided to be unselfish and tried to feed Lack for his hat trick goal but the defenceman cleared the puck.

The home fans thought they had got the tenth goal when Grant Rounding circled around the back of the net and fed Dan Lackey who fired in but the utility man’s first goal of the season was denied as Mr Matthews washed the goal out for the net being off of its moorings.

Despite it being the correct call, it felt almost unfair when Mr Matthews called the Pirates for too many men and someone got their hat trick but it wasn’t Lack. Doug Sheppard sent the 4th line out Rounding, Lackey and Sutton to take the powerplay who proceeded to work the puck back to Declan Balmer who smashed the puck past Raitums at 54:52 to send the Bison to double figures.

After a very good move between Sutton and Rounding that couldn’t find a way past Raitums, the Bison were set to see out the game on the penalty kill as Kurt Reynolds was called for delay of game thanks to everyone’s 2nd least favourite rule for putting the puck over the glass.

Weller-Evans was forced into a couple of saves but the fight had long left the encounter. The final buzzer sounded to signal a few things; a combined shutout, another two points on the board and one step closer for the Bison to the ending to the season that they’re seeking.

Oh boy: When I walked into the bar after the game last night, the first thing I thought was “how do I write this up?” However the rule that I have long employed for BOTW write ups of “write nothing till you sleep on it” worked in the end. If this game had happened in December for example it would have been tougher to really get anything from it. 10-0 wins are fun on the night but the afterglow generally wears off quickly unless you’re taking on a fierce local rival which, with all due respect, Hull aren’t.

The difference is this is March. We are into the last month of the season with the Bison in pole position to take the club’s first league title since the Beavers won the league in 1993 and the result is slightly bigger than the opposition. The message the Bison are sending is that they are not letting up. Swindon got stung by Hull last weekend and this could have been a potential stumbling block. Instead the Bison went all guns blazing at it and the Pirates were (pun alert) blown out of the water.

Declan Balmer was the obvious man of the match choice because when a stay at home defenceman scores a hat trick that’s probably worthy of the beers. The entire defence actually had a decent game and whilst there were some hairy moments, all held firm and made a variety of good plays to clear the danger. Jon Baston and Dan Weller-Evans both looked solid in net even if they weren’t overly tested.

When Rene Jarolin was 0+3 inside 6 minutes, you did have a feeling that the game would be over very quickly. People might call the Bison crass for the result, that they ran up the score against a side that clearly weren’t competing. There’s clearly an argument to make and that’s fine. The argument above about sending a message aside, it got to a point where it was harder to pass around than to shoot. Also, given the usual modus operandi of the Bison, to watch them really put a side to the sword was pleasing.

With another Sunday off and the impending game away at Telford next Saturday, this was a job well done for the Bison. I said last week that we were into the realm of “dare to do”. That’s one part done, on to the next.

A word on our opponents: The general reaction to the game from the home fans was that of credit to the Pirates for their effort and a massive amount of credit to their fans for their continuous support of their team. Coach Dominic Osman however saw things differently;

(courtesy of Hull Pirates audioboom account)

There’s not much you can say after a 10-0 loss, it certainly wasn’t a good thing. Osman himself got man of the match and I agreed with it because he was the only player I really noticed doing anything really of value. Ashley Smith and then Martins Raitums both got hung out to dry. Smith, a young netminder, needed much more protection than he was given. Some of the goals were soft but with the Pirates missing the playoffs, Dominic Osman deserves credit for trying to develop the young man by giving him ice time. Sadly his team mates gave him no help at all.

With the Pirates travelling to Guildford today the Pirates need a response, any response.

Lowlight of the night: Greener’s hit on Fisher, probably the only thing that made me wince all night.

Highlight of the night: Karpov’s goal was pretty nice to beat Raitums on the first shot he faced but actually I’ll say the return to the ice of Grant Rounding. The guy has had no fortune with injuries over the last two years and to see him back out on the ice last night brought a smile to my face.

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